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“That diamond upon your finger, say how came it yours?” asks Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. “Thou’lt torture me,” responds the villainous Iachimo, “to leave unspoken that which, to be spoke, would torture thee.” The story behind certain parts of the global trade in natural resources today, whether spoken or not, is no less a source of anguish.

Natural resources should be a major contributor to development in some of the countries that need it most. And yet, in some of world’s poorest and most fragile states, they bring just the opposite. In many of these countries, the trade in natural resources motivates, funds, and prolongs conflict and egregious human-rights abuses. Resources such as diamonds, gold, tungsten, tantalum and tin are mined, smuggled and illegally taxed by violent armed groups, and provide off-budget funding to abusive militaries and security services.

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